The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle sits on the runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 3, 2010, during post-landing operations. Personnel in self-contained atmospheric protective ensemble suits are conducting initial checks on the vehicle and ensuring the area is safe. The X-37B launched April 22 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., allowing teams to conduct on-orbit experiments for more than 220 days during this first mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Stonecypher)
by Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- After 244 days in space since its launch April 22 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., the X-37B orbital test vehicle landing marks the Air Force's latest step in experimental test missions to improve the service's space capabilities, officials said here Dec. 6.
The 11,000-pound OTV made an autonomous landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 3 at 1:16 a.m., allowing the Air Force to begin evaluation of its functions as a satellite communications, weather and material technology asset, said Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs Richard McKinney.
"We're in a very serious and important business of providing national security space capabilities for our nation," Mr. McKinney said. "Some of those capabilities are state-of-the-art, highly complex and very technical, ... and for its first flight, we're extremely pleased with the outcome of the X-37B."
Mr. McKinney said the ability to examine such high-tech technologies as space situational awareness, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and satellite development before they're made operational is a long-sought-after capability that the X-37B provides.
"Now we can test those capabilities long in advance of putting them in operational space," he said.
He added that the X-37B functions like other satellites with operators on Earth monitoring its travels -- with one fundamental difference.
"The vehicle was commanded to re-enter, and there's a pre-determined routine to fold up the solar array and then do its re-entry burn to reorient to the right position to survive the heat during re-entry," said Lt. Col. Troy Giese, the X-37B program manager for the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.
Lt. Col. Giese explained that there is no way to "take over" the vehicle upon landing, but 30th Space Wing range controllers at Vandenberg AFB could terminate the end of the flight had the X-37B broken any of the pre-determined safety boundaries.
"The ability to bring a small vehicle that's able to launch, operate and land autonomously is really quite an achievement," Mr. McKinney said. "Hopefully we'll be able to provide a new way for us to develop experiments and technologies for our national security."
Slated to launch in spring 2011, the X-37B OTV-2 orbit will incorporate lessons learned from OTV-1, Mr. McKinney said.
"The vehicle performed everything it was asked to do this particular flight, so now we need to see how the materials operated in this long duration and examine the vehicle, since it was designed to operate for long periods of time," he added.
Welcome to the Milcom Monitor Post sponsored by Teak Publishing (Copyright © 2006-2023 Teak Publishing). All rights are reserved. Redistribution of these pages in any format without prior permission is prohibited. Links to individual stories are permitted without permission. The comment section on this blog is closed, but you can pass along material or comments via email MilcomMP at gmail dot com. If you submit material for this blog and want to remain anonymous, indicate that in your message.
Milcom Monitoring Post Profiles
- What are Emergency Action Messages (EAM)? Updated 20 September 2021
- UFO Milsat Program
- Fleetsatcom System
- UHF 225-380 MHz Milcom Spectrum Holes: Updated 24 July 2019
- Civilian Air Cargo/Airline/Military Call Signs
- Intl HF Aero Civ/Gov/Mil Frequency List
- USN Aircraft Modex Numbers
- University of Twente Wide Band WebSDR Netherlands
- U.S. Military ALE Addresses
- DoD Air Refueling Frequencies - Update 15 Jul 2016
- COTHEN HF Network – Last Update 22 March 2023
- Monitoring the Civil Air Patrol Auxiliary Update 10 Sep 2016
- US Coast Guard Asset Guide - Update 6 Oct 2022
- The Spectrum Monitor e-Zine Milcom Column Index - Update 17 January 2022
- The Milcom MT Files (1998-2013) Articles Index